Android gains on iPhone in global smartphone sales

Android’s dominance of the US smartphone market hasn’t yet spread to the rest of the world, says Gartner, but Google is narrowing the gap with Apple.

The iPhone shifted 8.3 million units in the first quarter of this year – more than twice as many as in the same period last year, representing Apple’s strongest quarter yet.

“The second quarter of 2010 will be a very important one for Apple,” said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner.

“We expect that Apple will present its new iPhone in June during its Worldwide Developer Conference, which will be the first to feature the latest release of the iPhone OS that includes welcome improvements for developers and users, such as multitasking,”

The Apple OS was number three. Symbian remained in the number one position worldwide with 24.1 million units sold, but continued to lose share, thanks to Nokia’s weak high-end portfolio, Gartner says.

RIM was second with 10.6 million units sold, and Android rose to fourth position, overtaking Microsoft Windows Mobile for the first time.

“As seen with the iPad and web books based on Google’s Android platform, mobile OS ecosystems are developing and will move beyond smartphones to continue to deliver consumer value and a rich user experience,” said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner.

“To compete in such a crowded market, manufacturers need to tightly integrate hardware, user interface, and cloud and social networking services if their solutions are to appeal to users. Just adding a qwerty keyboard will not make a device fit the communication’s habits of today’s various consumer segments.”

Total worldwide mobile phone sales were 314.7 million units in the first quarter of 2010, 17 percent up on last year.

Smarpthone sales reached 54.3 million units, up 48.7 percent. This was the strongest year-on-year increase since 2006.